Not a Scam: Social Security Letters Alert Medicare Beneficiaries to Health Care Savings Programs

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Vanessa Sink

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NCOA Encourages Recipients to See if They’re Eligible

Arlington, VA – The Social Security Administration (SSA) has started sending more than 2.2 million Medicare beneficiaries letters alerting them to programs that could help pay their out-of-pocket health care expenses. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) wants to reassure beneficiaries that these SSA form letters are not a scam, and encourage anyone who receives one to contact their local aging organization to see if they qualify.

“These letters are an important opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries to evaluate their budgets and seek help if their health care and prescription costs are overwhelming,” said Leslie Fried, Senior Director of NCOA’s Center for Benefits Access. “There are organizations in every community that can help people with Medicare determine if they’re eligible for the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) and Medicare Part D Extra Help, assist them in enrolling, and explain how to use these benefits.”

Roughly 8.5 million people are enrolled in MSP and about 12 million use Extra Help to afford their Medicare premiums, co-payments, deductibles, and prescriptions. Millions more Medicare beneficiaries are likely eligible for the programs, but have not applied.

“Each day, thousands of Baby Boomers turn 65—and many are retiring with increasing amounts of debt and a fixed income,” Fried said. “Spiraling health care costs are a significant cause of that debt, and these programs go a long way to help reduce that burden. For those receiving one of these letters, a quick phone call could make a significant difference.”

There are two places where beneficiaries can get in-person help to see if they’re eligible:

  • The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) provides free, unbiased, one-on-one assistance to help Medicare beneficiaries and their families get answers to insurance questions and apply for benefits. People can find their local SHIP by calling 1-877-839-2675 or visiting www.shiptacenter.org.
  • NCOA’s Center for Benefits Access funds 59 Benefits Enrollment Centers (BECs) across the country that help Medicare beneficiaries with limited incomes access programs that help pay for health care, food, and more. Find a list of BECs here.

Medicare beneficiaries who are eligible for MSP and Extra Help also may be eligible for other benefits to supplement their monthly budget. NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp.org is a free, confidential online screening tool that older adults can use to find federal, state, and local benefit programs that help pay for health care, prescriptions, housing, utilities, food, and more.

To assist state and local benefits counselors, NCOA also has updated its visualization tool that uses SSA data to illustrate the number of letters sent to each zip code nationwide. This information can help state and local agencies more effectively target outreach to those who may be missing out on MSP and Extra Help in their communities.

View samples of the two letters here.

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Our mission is to improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. Through innovative community programs and services, online help, and advocacy, NCOA is partnering with nonprofit organizations, government, and business to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.